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Nollywood is now the world's third largest film producer

Nollywood: The African Tinsletown

 

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Masterpiece explores the burgeoning Nigerian video industry and the spread of the finished product across Africa and through the Nigerian diaspora.

In a starring role

 

"Ah, you want to kill me now!" - the woman yanks her hair wildly, her facial expression alive and contorted dramatically.

"No, not me, not today!" Her body shudders and in seconds, she is transformed into a vicious sleek mongrel, emitting blood-curdling growls.

This is a scene from a typical Nigerian movie - and in many sub-Saharan countries, their popularity is fast-growing, leaving fans longing for more.

The stories tend to be quite simple but very dramatic and heavy on the emotions: the women wail and are avaricious money lovers; the men are just as emotional and very vengeful.

Nollywood, as it is commonly known, became popular in Zambia when the national broadcaster, Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), went into partnership with a multinational company, Unilever, and started airing Wale Adenuga's soaps called Super Story.

The industry has become the third largest in the world, after the Indian and United States markets, with a turnover of over 2,000 low-budget films per year.

Using the flavour of American B-grade movies and some characteristics of India's Bollywood, Nigerian movie producers have been virtually squeezing water from a dry stone by producing films with a few thousand dollars.

Mothers in Uganda worry about the way their children are beginning to speak in "Nigerian English" due to watching so many of these films. Delighted viewers in Peckham, south London, are adamant followers of these films which are conquering the African world.

Masterpiece talks to the film makers in action and talk to directors and stars in the creative throes of this most Nigerian of success stories.

Pan-African cultural phenomenon

 

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Lagos is the biggest city in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, fostering a population of more than 15 million. In its teeming centre is one of Africa's great markets.

Idemota, in central Lagos, is truly a place of multitudes. Right in the centre of this market, hidden in a thousand narrow dark alleyways, up tiny stairwells around a hundred corners and across wooden plank bridges, are the marketers of Nollywood.

These powerful and discreet figures fund, cut and distribute the films and stories that they create.

In an unregulated world where piracy can make millions of dollars for those prepared to risk death in the process, the marketers need to be powerful.

Meeting them can be difficult and also surprising.

Uche Chuku Ekechukwu dives into Idemota and talks to shop owners, saleswomen, marketers and those screaming for the latest releases in Nollywood.
 
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